Fish soup

Fish soup

Best Kitchen Basics
Petrina Tinslay

For me the south of France is a magical place. Or maybe it’s the idea of it, as the romantic, sunny ideal of my mind’s eye hasn’t existed for a long time. It’s a sunny paradise of days gone by, but I find it difficult to dismiss the rosy image. This recipe is a bit like that. I had a passing idea of the essence of this Mediterranean classic and the core elements and then made the rest up. I’ve cooked it for many years and feel no urge to change. Serve it with rouille and chargrilled sourdough bread.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg whole red mullet or scorpion fish
1kg snapper bones, or other white-fleshed fish bones including the head
300ml olive oil
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
2 star anise
100ml dry white wine
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 sprig thyme
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
1 celery stalk, cut into small dice
1 onion, cut into small dice
1 fennel bulb, cut into small dice
1 small waxy potato, peeled and cut into small dice
6 ripe tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
100ml dry vermouth
50ml ricard or pernod
1 pinch saffron threads
1 small red chilli
1 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Scale the mullet and remove the guts. Reserve the liver and bones. Remove the lateral bones with a sharp knife and cut the mullet into rough pieces.
  2. Wash the snapper bones and chop them coarsely.
  3. Heat a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and add 100 ml of the olive oil. Add the snapper and mullet bones. Stir until the bones are caramelised and starting to fall apart. Add the peppercorns and star anise. Add the wine and reduce until it has fully evaporated. Cover with 1.5 litres water and add the bay leaf, parsley and thyme. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes to create a stock. Skim any grey scum that rises to the surface and discard.
  4. Put another heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the carrot, celery, onion, fennel and potato and sauté until lightly golden.
  5. Core the tomatoes and process to a fine purée in a blender.
  6. Add the crushed garlic to the vegetables and sauté for 30 seconds. Turn the heat to high and add the vermouth and Ricard. Reduce to a syrup, about 5 minutes, then add the tomato purée. Continue reducing until the olive oil starts to rise to the surface. Add the saffron, chilli, salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.
  7. Place a very fine sieve over the pan and pour the fish stock through it. Discard the bones.
  8. Bring to the boil and simmer briskly for 15 minutes. Add the reserved mullet (which will cook through in the heat of the soup). Do not skim any floating oil. Adjust the seasoning. Serve in a large bowl at the table and ladle into individual bowls.


  • Listen to ‘Exile on Main Street’ by the Stones, which was recorded at Villa Nellcôte, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Nice.
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